VIENNA ... the country, Austria, that gave the world Hitler and Hell is steeped in all sorts of history and at the heart of it all is Vienna with its uncountable waltzes, opera houses that rank with the best as do the concert halls and art and history museums ... and lots more including several palaces, cathedrals and places of worship of note.
|Entrance to the Imperial Palace, more pics below|
|St Peter's Cathedral|
|St Stephan's Cathedral where I heard the Mass led by a Cardinal|
PRAGUE ... was once where Bohemia lived but that was a long time ago. True, if you were young in the 1960s, Prague was inspiration as fought to cut loose of the Soviet yoke ... eventually succeeding to become what it is today. Once the the legend was that there was a write, a poet, an artist, a musician, classical singer and much more outside every cafe around every corner. They tell me that was the way it was ... Today there is still much of that still to be had but you won't find it on every corner. The lone young man who smothered himself in flames tried to launch the Prague spring, thought he would recover from the burns to his body and never did. There is a tiny sculptor of his head to remind us of this local hero. Alexander Dubcek, the hero of the 60s struggle is long dead in an accident but there are older folks who have other conspiracy theories. Still, there must be something about Prague that forces the rest of the world to jam into the city every year. It is still the city of a hundred spires but they are blackened by age and are just a reminder of the past.But this around I will have to miss the literati, glitterati, the poets, street musicians, the readings, discussions, the table thumping young wannabee politicians, the heroic Prague spring makers ... because there were none visible ... or may be I did not look in the right places. But we did find all the Catholic and Protestant churches, the few Jewish synagogues and cemeteries. Went on a 150 minute hike up to Prague Castle, a collection of historic palaces, a basilica, various churches, buildings that are now government offices, halls of fame that are now presidential palaces and home to people of trillions. As I said we walked but we did not have time to go into these magnificent buildings, however, the day was not all lost ... great lunch while lazily sauntering down the river Vtlava and later in the evening a raucous knees up (German beerkellar style) where the Poles tried to outdo the Turks, the Americans failed to get up to speed, a couple of Aussies took on the rest of the world and shouted them down ... including going on stage and attempting their own version of the Czech dancing ... somewhere between Knees Up Mother Brown and the Hokey Pokey! Fun though, lots of grog flowing all night, what is more beer is cheaper than water, ice cream, tea ...
Here are a couple of guys pissing on a cut out of the Czech Republic ... there is plenty of healthy cynicism around.
|Had a delightful lunch while sauntering down the river with an accordionist playing those old time faves|
|One of the saints who adorns the famous Charles Bridge|
|The world famous Charles Bridge with artists who will crayon your portrait or caricature al a Montmartre|
|Another church, another glittering square|
|St Xavier's Church|
|A clock which on the hour opens up a couple of squares and various characters come in and out much to the delight of the waiting crowd|
|A little Prague street music|
|The previous night's dinner and drinks are delivered by miniature electronic rail, cute!|
Once the great art city of Europe, Florence on the Elbe, Dresden was virtually destroyed by Allied bombers in WWII. From the rubble, they have managed to resurrect a new Dresden using as much of the stone masonry as possible. Famous for its china among other things, Dresden was also a very arty place boasting one of the best opera houses at the time ... because it was blessed with terrific sound ... here are some pretty pictures including that of an Australian restaurant...
Some stunning gold leaf work in Our Lady's church. Lots and lots of visitors, lots of restaurants and a pleasure to walk around.
LIKE EVERYONE else, I have always loved visiting Berlin. What's not to love? The first time I was here in the 1960s, the Berlin Wall was the evil incarnate, Willy Brandt was Germany's Chancellor and John F. Kennedy was shouting from the rooftops Ich bin ein Berliner (I am a Berliner). There was still plenty of the WWII bombing wreckage quite visible and somehow through all the ugliness that now smothered Berlin like tight belt, one street, the Kufurstundam seemed to live on with a stiff upper lip. That was also the first time, while as a guest of the West German Government, I came to the now historically famous Checkpoint Charlie (alpha, bravo charlie). I had go leave my German liaison officer/guide in West Berlin, while crossed into the East. It was a depressing site. There seemed to be no one there and the few that were around would not even acknowledge my presence. There was a thick aura of sadness, grim sadness, weighing down the people. In the years to follow I would visit Berlin and enjoy it as continued to grow in confidence and reparation. I never saw the wall before but it was always on my bucket list.
|The world famous Brandenburg Gate ... once in East Germany now free to the world|
|Slabs of concrete pay silent vigil to the men, women and children who were hideously killed in the Holocaust. There is still a huge debate whether this was an appropriate memorial, but it is what it is in the eyes of its creator|
|The television tower where you can zoom up 200 flights to a viewing platform in a whisker!|
|This Berlin Victory memorial to a Prussian victory is stunning to say the least.The golden angel that rules for miles around is no angel but the Roman goddess of victory|
We took off for Calais without a worry in the world ... until will arrived at Dover (which is just across the road so to speak). The French Customs and Excise guy said: Non! Sacre bleu!!! Our driver was told to go back and return for a baggage check. It is rare for package tours to be baggage checked hence there was considerable apprehension in the air, yes, a lot of concern on the faces of many people. So we got out of the customs area, headed back for London and the at the first opportunity we came back into the Dover check point. They took off a token small suitcases and quickly rushed them through the scanner. All clear.
The smiles came back and we were soon overdosing on the quiet charm of the quiet Belgian city of Ghent. It was a holiday after all and locals and visitors alike were out in force, enjoying lunch in the midday sun. It was not long before Dover nor a hint of it were on radars of any of our minds. Did you know that the Belgians sheepish laid claims to having invented Cricket? And they have 16th or 17th century evidence to prove it but I doubt if the Cricket bosses have anything to worry about. For some reason we could not find an ATM machine that worked ... it seemed it was all out of money.
Here is a pic I borrowed:
The world knows that when you talk about Amsterdam, you are really talking about Red Light District, Heineken beer, canals, bridges, cheese, football and lots of historic architecture. Oh if you are wondering about lights in the red district, well red indicates a female worker, a red and blue light is of the other persuasion ... this is of no interest to my readers but I thought ... another useless fact ... you know that hashish, marijuana is legal in the Netherlands. If you want to buy some you go to a coffee shop, if you want to buy coffee you go to a cafe. By the way, Holland is a district, the Netherlands is a country, as if you did not know that. There are a lot of museums in Amsterdam, but this trip I gave it miss because I did not have enough time to do them justice. Instead, I went walk-about, train-about, tram-about around this large metropolitan city. With a co-traveller from Melbourne tried hard to find a fish restaurant. There was meat of all shapes and sizes everywhere ... and of course, Mackers, Kentucky fryers and other chicken cookers as well as Turkish kebabs abound. Oh, lots of pork too. Had to settle a fish and chippo at a British pub ... nothing like the fish and chips at a genuine English fish N Chips shop in England before 1970, when the dish was authentic, the fish genuine, the chips fried in pretty clean oil and do not come as brown as they do today. It filled a gap.
With that we had 10 minutes to get back to catch our coach to the hotel. One wrong left turn and we missed it by 10 minutes. Had to quickly learn the train system ...
PS: Jackpot ... dined on pink salmon, lightly, lightly cooked! Heaven.
Some images of Amsterdam central,
So tomorrow we do a pretty long hike to Berlin ... really looking forward to this:
Most folks go on holiday to relax, make new memories, recharge the batteries,l sun and sans, party...generally having the time of their lives ... my having the time of my life is ticking off bucket list places by revisiting some, discovering new and exciting things about them ... treading the paths of old and stamping footprints anew. So it June 9, I have just come from London Heathrow into the caring arms of my very special friends Don and Alvira Almeida in Bexley, London. Due to bad luck missed Leo and Gerry Rodrigues were waiting at the airport to pick me up. Will have to make up for that. One leg of the flight was brilliant, the other so-so, the lounge made up for it a bit. Had a brunchy breakfast in the London sun.
Heading for Greenwich in the South to begin my epic holiday as illustrated below.
Some places I will have been to a number of times, there is always something new to discover.
Will keep you posted.
June 10 to July 16 or so
FIRST BRIEF STOP IN Bruges en route to Amsterdam. Been here many times, so am planning a little off-the-beaten track historical exploring.
BERLIN: The last time I was there was in 1972 for a pre-Olympic slosh as part of a whistle stop tour of Germany. Before that I had been there many times since 1965. I know Berlin has gone tremendous change since the wall came down, lookin' forward to it.
Once the great art city of Europe, Florence on the Elbe, Dresden was virtually destroyed by Allied bombers in WWII.
PRAGUE: Along with Greenwich Village in New York, Prague was a haven for writers, poets, musicians and intelligentsia of all sorts. Like GV, Prague has always had a delightful cafe culture, a fun, easy-going culture.